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Area Fire Departments Receive Federal Grants

Nearly $163,000 has been awarded to the Alexandria Fire Department and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department to increase fire safety education and protective services to firefighters.

As part of a three quarter million dollar grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's U.S. Fire Administration Assistance for Firefighting Program disbursed to 10 Virginia fire departments, each will use their grant in very different ways.

Alexandria plans to use its $44,072 to "install heat panels in the burn building used for training firefighters," according to Jane D. Malik, department public information officer. "The panels will register the intensity of the heat inside."

Malik explained, "It's a very important safety factor when training firefighters. It is essential for them to know the situation inside for preservation purposes." The department's training facility "Burn Building" is located on South Payne Street.

Application for the grant was approved by City Council last fall. The federal government supplies 70 percent of the money and the City provides the remainder, Malik verified.

FAIRFAX COUNTY Fire and Rescue will utilize their $118,795 to enhance the Risk Watch Program in 140 elementary schools throughout the county, according to Lieutenant Mark Stone, Community Relations/Education Officer for the department.

"This is an eight component safety program. It covers everything from bike safety to burns. It is implemented in grades kindergarten through eighth. But, we are not going into every school and every grade immediately," Stone explained.

"We will start with kids in the School Age Child Care (SACC) Program. Although, we don't look at them as being more at risk. They are on their own more than normal since they usually come from families where both parents work. They have to grow up somewhat faster," he said.

The initial implementation to utilize the new monies will begin in the fall of 2003, Stone noted. "It's a partnership between the schools and the Fire Department and is delivered to the schools at no cost to them," he said.

Fairfax Fire and Rescue will utilize a model developed by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) on how to deliver the program. "But, we are going about it a little differently," Stone pointed out.

"We will be using our own firefighters to deliver the program. This doesn't mean the schools aren't going to play a role. The school faculties that are part of the SACC program will definitely participate. They will manage the program on a day-to-day basis," he emphasized.

"We had a mini grant from the state last year and initiated a trial program at Belle View Elementary in the Mount Vernon District. We hope to acquire all the necessary materials by this summer," Stone said.

PLANNING CALLS FOR the involvement of approximately 30 to 40 firefighters in the program. Presently, there are about 20 instructors.

Overall coordination will fall to the Public Information and Life Safety Education Section of the department. "This whole program was initiated by Chief Stinnette. He definitely sees a need for education and prevention. We are the only jurisdiction in this area to use these funds for this purpose," Stone verified.

"We now have to put together our information/proposal packet and send it to the Board of Supervisors to get the actual funds. But, once the materials are in the stations there is very little cost from then on," he said.